Dirtnail pedicabs — Pedicabs

Dirtnail pedicabs

Dirtnail Pedicabs owner Luke Iseman says he and other members of his fleet have been targeted by police.Dirtnail Pedicabs owner Luke Iseman says he and other members of his fleet have been targeted by police.

Photo by Jana Birchum

The traditionally laid-back realm of pedicabs – in which drivers provide bike-powered rides to Downtown revelers in return for tips – has been harshed in recent weeks by allegations of a police crackdown against the peddlers. It seems as if some of the unwanted attention may result from an unclear understanding of rules governing the vehicles, compounded by drivers' bristling at the regulations – but separate efforts to further codify pedicab operations may further throw the field into disarray. The conflict is a sign of the growing pains the once innocuous industry now faces as it expands; according to the city's Transportation Department, Austin now counts some 16 separate pedicab companies, encompassing 187 vehicles.

Dirtnail Pedicabs owner/operator Luke Iseman says that in the last month, he and other members of his 18-cab fleet have been targeted for stepped-up enforcement by the police, as have drivers from other pedicab companies. He recounts how earlier this month he was cited for parking on the sidewalk at Sixth and Brazos because it didn't fall within the pickup or drop-off points designated in Dirtnail's "operating authority." He says another of his drivers, at Fourth Street and Colorado, "was told by one officer to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. Five minutes later, another officer tells him to get off the sidewalk and onto the street." He also recounts, among other incidents, being pulled over by a police cruiser "and told that my rear slow-moving vehicle sign was 'not reflective enough.'"

While the enforcement may be new, the police may have been within their authority, at least regarding where pedicabs can queue. Pedicabs are governed by each company's operating authority, issued by the city, outlining the areas in which cabs can operate and pick up fares. But Iseman says designated pickup spots "represent very little of the actual rides that we take" and that the practice of designating specific areas is hopelessly out of step with cab patrons' changing patterns of behavior. "You're never going to define waiting spots unless you just say 'every corner as long as you're not in the way of traffic or pedestrians.' ... You can never define those fast enough to keep up with change, not only in what clubs are open, but what clubs book popular artists that specific night."

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